The Seeding of Life on Distant Worlds

The concept of Panspermia is a description of all life in the Galaxy having been seeded by other life, all originating at one point.  This life can hitch a ride from star to star on comets, meteorites, and rogue planets.  It’s true we have never found evidence for life outside of our own home planet, but if panspermia is a viable theory, it could mean that life is everywhere, just waiting for us to find it.

In this theoretical artist’s conception of the Milky Way galaxy, transluscent green “bubbles” mark areas where life has spread beyond its home system to create cosmic oases, a process called panspermia. New research suggests that we could detect the pattern of panspermia, if it occurs. Credit: NASA/JPL/R. Hurt

In a new study from astronomers as the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, panspermia creates ‘oases’ where pockets of life form.  As life is able to travel from a starting point, it should spread out equally in all directions, forming a pocket.  If life forms independently in different regions of the galaxy, there should be several oases of life formed by local panspermia.

If the Earth is on the outskirts of an oasis of panspermia, we should expect to find life in half the sky, while the other half would be empty and not yet seeded.  But in order to determine these patterns, we first need to find a way to identify life in the atmospheres of exoplanets.  This technology is on the horizon, and it may be closer than we think.

The astronomers make a point to mention that panspermia would have to happen relatively quickly for this theory to work.  If it happens too slowly, stars will shift positions and drift around, creating much more difficult patterns that would not be easy to identify.  Or perhaps the stars would carry life far away and allow the entire galaxy to be slowly populated.

Whether panspermia turns out to be correct or not, I sincerely hope we find life elsewhere in the galaxy within my lifetime.

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